CUMMING -- A local church’s 40th anniversary is coming up on Memorial Day weekend, and the congregation has experienced so much growth that its members can’t all fit into the parish hall.
Episcopal Church of the Holy Spirit broke ground this week on its 9,600-square-foot expansion project. While that may not seem like a massive amount of space, it will nearly double the size of the church.
“Around 10 years ago, we realized we needed a large expansion project,” said Rev. Keith Oglesby, rector of Holy Spirit since 2009. “Two years ago, we organized a committee and looked at what we need and started a planning process.”
That process resulted in plans for increasing the worship space from 2,400 to 4,000 square feet, with seating increasing from 200 to nearly 350 people. The preschool will expand from 2,400 to nearly 4,200 square feet, with more windows and better lighting.
There also will be an expanded parish hall and kitchen, as well as a new youth room and 3,550 square feet of classrooms and multi-purpose rooms.
“We have four AA meetings a week, but we could do so much more community activity,” Oglesby said.
The goal of the project is to continue to live up to the church’s mission of “building to serve” and to be a “community of faith where everyone is welcome.”
“It’s a great sign of growth and life,” said the Right Rev. Robert Wright, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, who on Wednesday visited the church at 724 Pilgrim Mill Road.
“The church works really hard to welcome lots of folks, and it’s a big sign of welcome here in Cumming.”
Familiarity remains through growth
New space will be added to the back of the property, according to Dan Krogh, a church member serving as the point person between it and contractor.
“The building has been here more than 30 years, and it needs some work, so we’re knocking out two projects and bringing it all to today’s standards,” he said.
The original church spanned only as large as the parish hall, with the first addition being completed in 1987.
“We started [Tuesday] by clearing out trees and doing some survey work,” Krogh said. “It’s really a nine-month process, but we’re trying to do it in six or seven.
“It’s way overdue.”
Jeanie Lipscomb, who helped found the church with husband Emory in the ’70s, said she has seen “enormous growth.”
She said she sang in a Methodist church choir with Father Jim Hopewell, who became Holy Spirit’s first vicar. She realized she wanted an Episcopal church in Forsyth County, and the vision sprouted from there.
The first service in the new church — now just the parish hall — was held on Christmas Day 1977.
After the first addition in 1987, the first service was held on Easter.
And after all these years, what keeps her keep coming back?
“The spirit and the familiarity and the great people,” she said. “I can go out of town, and all of the Episcopal churches have the same service and the same book, but your home church is familiar.”